What happens at the back end of the bullpen?

The best logical scenario is that Jim Johnson, who converted his final nine save opportunities last year, will head into the season as the club's closer. Johnson was the Orioles' most effective reliever in 2011 and deserves another chance at closing. There will be at least four other relievers ready in case he falters or — as it has been considered for a year — if Johnson is eventually moved into the rotation. The problem is the potential reinforcements are all right-handed short relievers, and that could prompt a trade or an unusual bullpen alignment in April. The Orioles will have seven or eight relievers on the 25-man roster, and that should include one or two long men (such as Eveland, Wada, Simon, Bergesen and/or Jason Berken) and probably at least one lefty (Zach Phillips, Troy Patton, Eveland or Wada). So having five right-handers who are most comfortable pitching one inning at a time will provide a challenge — especially behind a rotation that has struggled annually to go deep into games. Kevin Gregg was the club's closer for most of last year before losing the job to Johnson. He converted 22 of 29 opportunities and struggled with his control, walking 40 batters in 59 2/3 innings. The Orioles would eat a chunk of his $5.8 million salary for 2012 in order to deal him, but they still might not be able to find a taker. Lindstrom, a 32-year-old righty with some closing experience (Florida Marlins, Houston Astros), has a power arm, and Duquette said he could be in the mix for some save opportunities. Luis Ayala, a 34-year-old veteran, had a strong 2011 with the New York Yankees and his quality sinker has returned, but he's best used for one inning in the seventh or eighth. And 26-year-old Pedro Strop was outstanding in 12 September games (one earned run), but because he is out of options, he might have to be dealt if he has a rough spring. It's difficult to see a scenario in which all five break camp with the Orioles, but they also are perhaps the best five relievers on the roster.
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